Friday, 19 July 2013 | Sister Linda
If you haven’t tuned into the Best of Gospel, you can do so any Sunday from 7-9 p.m. on WORT 89.9 FM. Introduced by Dr. Jonathan Overby over 20 years ago, today’s host is Linda Franklin, a native Madisonian and the daughter of the late James Franklin, Sr. and Mother Clara Franklin. Linda’s roots in Madison include attendance at Franklin Elementary School, Lincoln Junior High and Memorial High, where she was prom queen. Linda’s richly textured voice is perfect for introducing a wide variety of traditional, contemporary, and progressive gospel music genres. Sister Linda, as she is known on the program, is also a graduate of UW Madison’s School of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance, and has been a volunteer DJ at WORT since 2006.
Her listening audience has favorites. One frequently requested song is Marvin Sapp’s Never Would Have Made It. Two others are Cooling Water by the Williams Brothers and Running for Jesus by Augusta Staples, a fascinating, deep-voiced a capella vocalist whose voice may remind you of the great Albertina Walker.
In fact, contemporary gospel, mixed with a little traditional and everything in-between is what drives the Best of Gospel. Linda often plays what she’s familiar with and new releases that are sent to her from gospel recording companies like Tyscot and I Hear Music.
As is true for most radio programs, much of her audience demographic consists of people who are listening in the car. This gives her the advantage of having multiple listeners from all over the US and Canada. Her at-home listeners like to ask for songs to be dedicated to a particular person, church, or for their own listening pleasure. Like other programs at WORT 89.9 FM, the Best of Gospel is streamed live over the internet and archived at www.wortfm.org.
The theme song for the program is Glorify Him by Darwin Hobbs. “What I get out of hosting the show is joy, for real joy,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to praise God and to minister.” The ministry aspect derives from the message in the music and people asking for prayer and song selections for people who are sick or may be in crisis.
Occasionally, Linda will conduct interviews related to a particular event, such as the 100th Anniversary of Mt. Zion Baptist Church celebrated in 2011, or in celebration of Black History Month. She has interviewed Pastors Coli McNair, a composer, musician and vocalist, Harold Rayford, saxophonist extraordinaire, as well as “Johnny O.”, founder of the program. Most recently, she interviewed Jeremiah Williams of the Everreadys shortly before they performed in Madison at the Peboga Fall Gospel Fest. To add to the local zest, she makes announcements of community events by using the calendars published in such media as UMOJA, The Madison Times and The Capitol City Hues.
For about 2 years, the Best of Gospel had a co-host, Sister Pam Soward. Linda commented, “She has a rich voice that sounds great over the radio. We had an easy rapport because we have known one another for a long time.” Pam reluctantly gave up co-hosting because of pressing career and family responsibilities. Previous to Sister Pam, the co-host was the late Lucille Badger, known as Lady B. At first, Lady B virtually ran the show using her own CDs, which her husband Rev. Badger generously gave to me after she passed away. I was so grief stricken, I really didn’t know if I would continue to host the show,” Linda says. “Lady B’s last show took place about a month before she passed. Surrounded by a group of her Christian friends and her husband, we harmonized and sang hymns and spiritual songs at her bedside.”
A mezzo-soprano, Linda has performed extensively, starting with putting herself through college by singing with the Original Hyperion Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra, and being a flutist and vocalist as a Specialist 5 in the 132nd Army National Guard Band. Under the direction of emeritus Nancy Thurow, Linda performed in and directed several Children’s Theatre of Madison productions including a play about poet laureate, Langston Hughes entitled Poet of the People by Mary Satchell. “I have always worked hard to open opportunities for local talent, and in this play I called upon the artistry of people such as LaShon Cross, Richard Scott, Christina Ruffin, Michael London, Michael Dean, and the late Eddie Peterson and Alysundra Pace-Alawiye, among others in the village.
When she directed the opera Lost in the Stars with U.W. Professor of Opera Karlos Moser in 2000, she enlisted the classically trained voice of UW Madison graduate Nate Stampley as well as indigenous talent, including U.W. graduate student Jeffrey McGee, Rochelle and Diamond Howard, Reginia Holmes, and Major Lattimer. Another venue for Linda’s voice has been DVDs for children, television commercials and voice overs for employment education and faith-based training. At one time, she owned her own acting business, L.A. Talent Agency.
How have these experiences helped with the Best of Gospel? “As a performer, you have to relate to your audience. On air, you have to create energy between you and the listener in order to sustain their interest, or they might flip the channel. “
Originally featured in UMOJA magazine and revised by consent of the publisher, Milele Chikasa Anana